Sunday, August 09, 2009

A Damascus Razor – The Box For It


I figured I should make a box for this one. After all, it is not a cheap razor. I’m still not very good with the boxes as I am with the razors, but I’ll get there. This one has dovetail joints and is made out of African Amazique wood. I put an escutcheon oval out of sterling silver on one end with the engraved name of the new owner.

I did not include photos of that to protect the innocent from being bonked on the head by his little Mrs. Word gets around, y’know. If any of y’all want to know how to make your own boxes, leave a comment here and I’ll see if I can put that task on my plate of things to do.

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Thursday, August 06, 2009

A Damascus Razor – Start to Finish – Part Three


Before I forget, as the design of wire inlay is put into the steel, care must be given to be sure that the weave of the Celtic-like ribbons alternate going over the top and then pass under the next ribbon as it is being crossed. You don’t want two bands of ribbon in a row passing over the top or have two bands going under crossing bands. So, it’s over/under over/under over/under and not over/over over/under. Does that make a lick of sense? Anyone? Beuler? Beuler? Ok, I’ll dispense with the comedy.

The next process is to design and put the wire inlay in the tang. This is also a freehand process. Measured, but freehand, nevertheless. Once again, square channels are cut and then undercut to accept the gold wire. Here is where we are at.

Here is where I messed up a bit… I forgot to take progressive pics of the inlay process for the tang surfaces. Dang it! Well, we will jump right into what it looks like after the gold is pounded into the channel, cut flush, sanded, and put through the heat treat process. Gold melts around 1,700 degrees or so which means the razor bake should not affect the wire inlay at all.. I hope.

I had my friend, Bill Coffey, do the heat treating for me. He took it to 1,500 degrees and quenched in some fancy-dancy special oil. After that, as you most probably know, the steel must be tempered. Since the amount of follow-up grinding was minimal, I did that before completing the tempering process. Nothing that requires much talent there… I threw it in my wife’s oven at 400 degrees, let it cool to room temperature and did it again. Double tempered. When you hear “double temper”, that’s what it means. Not so difficult, eh?

Here is what it looks like immediately after heat treat but before it has been tempered.

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Not so pretty at this stage, right? Have faith, my friends. Sandpaper is your friend. And that’s precisely what happens next. Sanding everything down where it needs to be.

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Sanding down the steel surfaces with the higher grits of sandpaper also reveals the pattern in the damascus steel. It has to be viewed at the right angle to see it, but it looks pretty good so far. What-a-ya say?

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Bout time for some tempering. Don’t tell my wife I use her oven for this stuff. Tempering adds a bit of color, but not the right color. It is not etched either, and that’s one of the desireable characteristics of damascus. That’ll come soon.

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Now we’re back to some light sanding again to prepare for the acid etching process with ferric chloride.

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And here ya have it after a “secret” amount of time in the acid bath and another little trick or two to get this effect.

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Now it’s time to put some ivory on this puppy. Oh yeah! Let me remind everyone that this is legal ivory. It came from a tusk that came to the U.S. in the 40’s as a decorative carving. I’m thinkin’ that there is more art in the form of some nice scales than in carvings, so the short tusk got cut up and put to good use in addition to just being able to look on with some appreciation at nature’s beauty. 

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I also made a box for the razor so it can be displayed or just have a safe place to sit while you prepare for your shave… Oh, and does it ever shave!!! Pics of the box to come…     




Wednesday, August 05, 2009

A Damascus Razor – Start to Finish – Part Two


This will give you an idea how much area the wire inlay covers. The practice plates have outlines on them in the shape of my humpback style straight razors. The middle design has only been cut in the shape of a square channel. I colored in the design with magic marker so I could see where I left off during the cuts.



After gaining a bit of confidence with my ability to actually put in some wire inlay on the razor itself, I set up some thermo-loc from GRS tools to prevent damage to the blade while I worked on it. I love this stuff. Remember, ask for Linda if you want stuff from them. Actually, in the process of adding a link to their site for you, I just discovered that they now offer on-line purchasing, so calling them isn’t really necessary unless you have questions. I hate it now that they are offering on-line buying… only ‘cause now I’m going to go broke when I see all the neat stuff they have to offer.

Anyway, here is the blade clamped within the thermo-loc and in my ball vise. I applied a purple-ish dye to the surface so it was easier to see what is scratched into the surface. Within the four equally measured sections, I drew in the design I wanted… freehand.

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Next, it’s time to start cutting with a #37 flat graver. That looks like this:

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This next pic shows the dye sanded off. The residue from that sanding process filled the area that was engraved. I only left it in place so you could distinguish the outlines better. If you look closely on the spine, you can see the divisions of the steel of the damascus pattern in the shape of half circles.


Once the pattern is cut to the proper depth and all of the edges are undercut, I used my engraving system to pound the 24K gold wire into the channel. That produced this:


Once the gold is pounded in place, I cut it flush using a wider flat graver than the one I used to dig the channel. Then I sanded it flush and outlined the gold with a “V” border. I cut the border in the steel rather than the gold so that the gold didn’t lose any width in appearance.

It is a difficult process in that the steel is much harder to cut than the gold and the graver tip could easily drift off into the softer material. Also, it’s very important to be accurate with the cuts because the slightest variation off of the true outline would easily be noticed. Especially since the wire is so thin. If you look closely, you can see the two small legs that had not been cut prior to taking the picture.


I put a bit of gun bluing on the spine for the next picture to highlight the effect of the pattern in gold.


This next pic will give you an idea of the relative size of the work done on the spine. It’s a pretty intricate process, yet very rewarding when it comes out OK.







A Damascus Razor – Start to Finish – Part One


I started talking about this razor elsewhere and decided to finish it up here on my own blog. Here I don’t have to tolerate the occasional piss ants who attempt to garner attention for themselves arguing about truly idiotic ideas based on their own limited skills and knowledge base on the premise that there is no right or wrong about building razors… a premise, mind you, that there are only opinions and no facts. Sheesh! The trouble with ignorance is that it picks up confidence as it rolls along. More on “Razor Balance” later, right along with where I point out the difference between an opinion and a fact. I digress… back to the damascus razor.

In an effort to get all controversy out of the way from the get-go, I would like to mention that my use of the term “damascus” can raise the hair on the back of the neck of some boys. Lately, it seems to be a bone of contention with many guys in regards to the true meaning of the word as it relates to their entire bank of knowledge... Wikipedia.

Some insist that “pattern welded” steel is not the same thing as damascus steel.  Fine.  I’m not here to argue any of that. Call it what you want. For the purpose of this blog entry, however, I’m referring to the razor being made as a damascus razor. I called the maker of the billet, Robert Eggerling, and asked him if he calls his steel damascus or pattern welded. He said that either is fine, but he refers to it as damascus. That’s good enough for me. His word trumps all the dinkweeds who probably just spent most of the week running their fingers through the toilet paper.

I have made razors in the past using damascus with varied results… with most of them not meeting my standards or expectations. When the same steel is used on a knife, I have achieved killer results. The problem with making razors has been that, invariably, two or more of the steels in the damascus wind up meeting in several places along the cutting edge at some pretty steep angles. Because the edge is very thin, the damascus, regardless of who made it, had a tendency to microchip at those junctures. The razor would function, but it was not a comfortable shave. They were also a bear to hone and strop. A good size chip in the edge would also mar a good strop… that’s not good either. Aside from a Zowada razor, I think you’ll find that most folk were not all that thrilled with anyone else’s damascus razors, including mine.

I have found that this microchip anomaly is characteristic of most damascus or pattern welded steel made in the past 10 years. This was the primary reason I quit using damascus for razors for many years. It surely was pretty… it just didn’t function very well. I haven’t tried powdered damascus, so I cannot comment on any advantages or disadvantages on those. Sandwiched steel doesn’t even count in this discussion. It’s great stuff, but it’s unrelated.

An excellent knife/razor maker, Tim Zowada, solved the microchip problem by running the pattern parallel to the edge. I decided to tackle the problem a little differently. I had Robert weld a narrow strip of 1084 carbon steel on the edge of the billet. That way I get the beauty of the damascus and the surefire edge of a solid piece of steel along the cutting edge. You get the best of both worlds, so to speak. I only refer to “beauty” in damascus as the forefront of desirability because modern steels are as good if not better than any damascus around… past or present. So, I’m saying it’s my take that damascus is mostly for looks rather than function in this day and age.


The very next step in production after the steel comes through the doors of my workshop is to profile the shape of the blade. I decided to use my original humpback design and dress it up a bit later on down the road. Here is the preliminary outline/profile with the Burr King grinder and specific attachment I used to do that portion of the work.


Once the profile is ground, what is called the “master grind” is applied to the blade, giving it the 1/4 hollow ground shape along the cutting edge. All my razors are 1/4 hollow ground. The thickness at the cutting edge is kept above .030 of an inch for now. It’s also a bit rough… like an 80 grit finish. Before heat treating the blade, I will take it down to .025 of an inch and use a 120 grit belt. I cannot go thinner at the edge because the 1,500 degrees necessary to heat treat the blade would warp the entire cutting edge, making it look like the bottom fin of an electric eel.






At this stage, some detail is added. The hole for the pivot is drilled and the tang is tapered to take a bit of the weight from the back of the blade. Since I decided to gussy this one up a bit, I had to practice my engraving skills a mite to include some wire inlay. I used copper and brass for practice, but knew that I would be using pure 24K gold wire inlay for the final design.


Using gold wire is not for the faint of heart. Especially at today’s prices for gold. I’m going to use 24K, 24GA wire. As you can see, it’s not cheap. I’ll probably use half of what is in the package.


Here is the gadget I engrave with. It’s a contraption that acts like a miniature jackhammer with the power coming from a machine that delivers air to the handset with variable beats per minute. The range is from about 400 to 8,000. Most work for me is in the 2,200 BPM range. Gold is pounded into the channels at 1,400 BPM. The chisel-like tool in the end is called a graver. They have to be precisely sharpened with special fixtures on diamond hones to achieve optimum performance. The gravers come in different shapes to do different tasks.  If you want to learn how to engrave, there is a dandy place in “tornado” Kansas to learn. It’s called GRS tools. All the info is on their site. Ask for Linda. Tell her I sent ya.


For wire inlay, I put in a square “trench” with a flat-edged graver. After the depth is slightly more than half the diameter of the wire, I go back and undercut the entire length of the trench at the outer edges on both sides so that the gold does not come out after it is pounded in place.

The next pic shows some copper wire that has just been pounded in place in one of the designs I considered using for the tang on the razor. I got to thinkin’ it may be too busy and went with something else. Stay tuned.  The second pic shows what it looks like through the stereoscope I also use to do my engraving. You will see where I have started to cut the excess wire flush to the surface.

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Here are the next progressions in pics. The first show the tip configurations for the gravers I use in the magnum hand piece. The second shows the wire cut flush and sanded. Now, the wire has to be outlined with what is called a “square” graver. It is tilted on edge to form a “V”. I also change the degree of the angle of the “V” on the graver to 105 from the standard 90 degree angle. 

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I’m going to give it a rest with this section. I’ll come back shortly for part two, etc…